It’s easy to assume that just because we have a certain level of experience or degrees or certifications to prove our worth that we’re credible as IT professionals, but it’s not that simple. So how can we strengthen credibility among co-workers?
Credibility begins with how you interact with others and how you are perceived. Do your colleagues consider you someone they can trust? This is far more important than any of your technical skills, certifications and degrees. Sure, you need those as a baseline, but how you communicate and deal with people is more important over the long haul.
Persuasiveness goes a long way toward building your relationships and credibility. Co-workers must feel confident you can do something to/for them or prevent something from happening to them before they’ll buy into what you’re saying. Simply working in IT helps most of us meet this requirement, but there's more to it than that.
Trust is the core of credibility. Most folks want to do business with people they trust. When others trust you and your abilities, they’ll open up to you and your advice. Simply doing what you say you’re going to do works wonders for building trust. It’s also important to build people up rather than beat them down in IT. In many companies, things are viewed as everyone versus IT. No matter how silly questions and demands may seem, stepping out of the mold and making co-workers feel important is a great way to build trust and credibility.
Openly communicating with your co-workers is critical. The moment you shut down is the moment you start tearing down the trust you’ve built. The last thing you want is for people to think you’re a lunatic waiting to fly off the handle. Be friendly and make yourself approachable; do the opposite and you’ll isolate yourself.
When interacting with others, understand that people do things for their reasons, not yours. This means that you must put things in their terms. For example, if you’re trying to build support for a network reconfiguration, or trying to get people to buy into your information security initiatives, put everything in terms of how these changes and investments will affect them in their roles as well as the overall business. Pushing an agenda and spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt will scare people away.
Another crucial aspect of credibility is self-confidence. Many people cannot make important IT decisions unless they know they have the approval of others. This is a slippery slope. Develop your self-confidence by minimizing negative thoughts about yourself and others, setting and achieving your own goals and understanding that it’s OK to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and vow to improve things moving forward.
Interestingly, psychologists have found that fully functioning people have little concern about the opinions of others. This doesn’t mean it’s your way or the highway but rather it warns you not to get caught up worrying about what other people are thinking about you all the time. Again, people continually think about what they want, not what you want and not who you are. Base your IT decisions on your core principles and knowledge, not what you think others expect or what is politically correct.
A great way to build a positive reputation is to take responsibility for your actions. Do what you say you’re going to do. Focus on what you want and how to get it, rather than blaming others for what you don’t have. This is one of the most difficult things to do, especially when you want to save face. People would prefer to hear you admit fault instead of making excuses for something that went wrong.
Ask yourself what words you would like people to use to describe you when you’re not around. Carry yourself like you’re a person of power and fake it until you make it. If you want upward mobility in your IT career, do what you can to build your credibility.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Beaver is an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. With over 23 years of experience in the industry, Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments involving information risk management. He can be reached at www.principlelogic.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @kevinbeaver.
This was first published in June 2012